Screening for Cancer

Screening for cancer aims to pick up the disease at a stage when we intend to cure it.

Screening is done even without any symptoms being present.

People with a strong family history or personal history of cancer and other risk factors are usually offered screening and possibly genetic testing.

Women over the age of 35 years are subjected to a mammogram as a screening test for breast cancer.

For those with a high risk of breast cancer and in women younger than 35 years, Magnetic Resonance Imaging may be useful.


The commonest screening tool for breast cancer is a mammogram. It is basically an X-ray of the breast tissue. A mammogram helps in finding tumors that are too small to feel. Factors that affect the probability of breast cancer detection are

A mammogram can pick up breast cancer before it has spread beyond the lining of the ducts (DCIS).

Its role is limited in younger individuals because they tend to have denser breasts and it becomes difficult to differentiate dense breast tissue from tumors.

Many factors affect whether mammography is able to detect (find) breast cancer

  • NThe age and weight of the patient.
  • NTumor size and type
  • NLocation of tumor in the breast
  • NSensitivity of breast to hormonal changes.
  • NDensity of breasts
  • NMammogram timing in relation to the menstrual cycle.
  • NQuality of exposure in Mammogram
  • NExpertise of radiologist to infer the findings.

Screening mammograms done in women aged 50-69years have reduced the chances of dying due to breast cancer than those who were not screened.
MRI is a screening tool where magnetic coils are used to generate images of the body and processed through computer algorithms to generate pictures of the body without the usage of X-rays

MRI is useful in screening for high-risk individuals like

Family history of BRCA1/2 gene mutations.

  • NGenetic Syndromes like Cowden/Li Fraumeni Syndrome.
  • NStrong family history with first-degree relatives suffering from breast cancer.
  • NRadiation treatment exposure during childhood.
Women who have had radiation treatment to the chest, especially at a young age, may start routine breast cancer screening at an earlier age. The benefits and risks of mammograms and MRIs for these women have not been studied.

Routine Breast Exam

It is performed by a doctor or health care professional wherein the breast are carefully felt for any lumps, pain and other abnormalities in appearance. A self-breast examination can be practiced by men and women to identify lumps. If any lumps are palpable then approach a doctor preferably a surgeon.


Procedure in which a special camera senses heat in the skin of the breast based on which tumors may show up on the thermogram.


Any suspicious masses/tumor on mammogram or breast examination are subjected to needle biopsy or trucut biopsy. It will allow for the cells/tissues to be examined under microscope to help make a definitive diagnosis. A combination of MAMMOGRAM, BREAST EXAMINATION AND BIOPSY help in increasing the possibility of identifying breast cancer earlier than with anyone of them individually.